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Horace alone.” He seemed to be in a more indulgent humour than when this subject was discussed between him and Mr. Murphy'.
When we were at tea and coffee, there came in Lord Trimlestown, in whose family was an ancient Irish peerage, but it suffered by taking the generous side in the troubles of the last century. He was a man of pleasing conversation, and was accompanied by a young gentleman, his son.
I mentioned that I had in my possession the Life of Sir Robert Sibbald, the celebrated Scottish antiquary, and founder of the royal college of physicians at Edinburgh, in the original manuscript in his own hand writing; and that it was, I believed, the most natural and candid account of himself that ever was given by any man. As an instance, he tells that the Duke of Perth, then chancellor of Scotland, pressed him very much to come over to the Roman Catholick faith : that he resisted all his grace's arguments for a considerable time, till one day he felt himself, as it were, instantaneously convinced, and with tears in his eyes ran into the duke's arms, and embraced the ancient religion; that he continued very steady in it for some time, and accompanied his grace to London one winter, and lived in his household ; that there he found the rigid fasting prescribed by the church very severe upon him; that this disposed him to reconsider the controversy; and having then seen that
[See ante, vol. iii. p. 395.—ED.) ? Since this was written, the attainder has been reversed ; and Nicholas Barnewall is now a peer of Ireland with this title. The person mentioned in the text had studied physick, and prescribed gratis to the poor. Hence arose the subsequent conversation.-MALONE. (We find in one of the magazines of the day, with the ironical title of “Remarkable Instance of Filial Affection," an advertisement dated 19th July, 1768, and signed “Thomas Barnewell,” warning the public not to buy any timber trees which his father, Lord Trimlestown, is about to sell, as he is advised that his father is tenant for life, and has no right to sell such trees, and that the advertiser is resolved to put the law in force against any one who shall make a bargain contrary to his interest.
Repertory, vol. i. p. 118. Johnson's visitor must have been the dutiful son.--ED.]
he was in the wrong, he returned to Protestantism. I talked of some time or other publishing this curious life. MRS. THRALE. “I think you had as well let alone that publication. To discover such weakness exposes a man when he is gone." JOHNSON. “Nay, it is an honest picture of human nature. How often are the primary motives of our greatest actions as small as Sibbald's for his reconversion!" MRS. THRALE. “But may they not as well be forgotten ?” JOHNSON. “No, madam; a man loves to review his own mind. That is the use of a diary or journal.” LORD TRIMLESTOWN. " True, sir. As the ladies love to see themselves in a glass, so a man likes to see himself in his journal.” BOSWELL. “ A very pretty allusion.” JOHNSON. “ Yes, indeed.” Boswell. “And as a lady adjusts? her dress before a mirrour, a man adjusts his character by looking at his journal.” I next year found the very same thought in Atterbury's “ Funeral Sermon on Lady Cutts;" where, having mentioned her Diary, he says, “ In this glass she every day dressed her mind.” This is a proof of coincidence, and not of plagiarism ; for I had never read that sermon before.
Next morning, while we were at breakfast, Johnson gave a very earnest recommendation of what he himself practised with the utmost conscientiousness : I mean a strict attention to truth, even in the most minute particulars. “ Accustom your children,” said
[Boswell seems much pleased with his own ingenuity, and the coincidence of thoughts between Bishop Atterbury and himself, but I don't quite understand his expression “a man adjusting his character.” If he means that a man, by re. ferring to his joumal, as a lady to her looking-glass, improves his mind and conduct daily, I suspect there is more of fancy than truth in it. Men may consult their diaries and read their conduct in the day that is gone by; but, generally, to as little advantage as the person figured by St. James in a similar strain :-"He beholds his natural face in a glass ; he beholdeth himself and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was."Chap. i. v. 23.-HALL. ) (See ante, v. iii. p. 321.-Ep.]
he, “constantly to this: if a thing happened at one window, and they, when relating it, say that it happened at another, do not let it pass, but instantly check them : you do not know where deviation from truth will end." BOSWELL. “ It may come to the door : and when once an account is at all varied in one circumstance, it may by degrees be varied so as to be totally different from what really happened.” Our lively hostess, whose fancy was impatient of the rein, fidgeted at this, and ventured to say, Nay, this is too much. If Dr. Johnson should forbid me to drink tea, I would comply, as I should feel the restraint only twice a day; but little variations in narrative must happen a thousand times a day, if one is not perpetually watching." JOHNSON “ Well, madam, and you ought to be perpetually watching. It is more from carelessness about truth, than from intentional lying, that there is so much falsehood in the world.”
In his review of Dr. Warton's " Essay on the Writings and Genius of Pope,” Johnson has given the following salutary caution upon this subject :
Nothing but experience could evince the frequency of false information, or enable any man to conceive that so many groundless reports should be propagated as every man of eminence may hear of himself. Some men relate what they think as what they know; some men of confused memories and habitual inaccuracy ascribe to one man what belongs to another ; and some talk on without thought or care. A few men are sufficient to broach falsehoods, which are afterwards innocently diffused by successive relaters'.” Had he lived to read what Sir John Hawkins and
· Literary Magazine, 1756, p. 37.–BOSWELL.
Mrs. Piozzi have related concerning himself, how much would he have found his observation illustrated'! He was indeed so much impressed with the prevalence of falsehood, voluntary or unintentional, that I never knew any person who, upon hearing an extraordinary circumstance told, discovered more of the incredulus odi. He would say with a significant look and decisive tone, “ It is not so. Do not tell this again ?.” He inculcated upon all his friends the importance of perpetual vigilance against the slightest degrees of falsehood; the effect of which, as Sir Joshua Reynolds observed to me, has been, that all who were of his school are distinguished for a love of truth and accuracy, which they would not have possessed in the same degree if they had not been acquainted with Johnson.
Talking of ghosts, he said, “It is wonderful that five thousand years have now elapsed since the creation of the world, and still it is undecided whether or not there has ever been an instance of the spirit of any person appearing after death. All argument is against it; but all belief is for it.”
He said, “John Wesley's conversation is good, but he is never at leisure. He is always obliged to go at a certain hour. This is very disagreeable to a man who loves to fold his legs and have out his talk, as I do.”
(Sir John Hawkins has not, it is believed, stated any thing false, though he may have sometimes discoloured and misrepresented ; and after all that Mr. Boswell and Mr. Malone have said of Mrs. Piozzi, nothing is proved indeed nothing is asserted—and the assertions are often disproved)—but verbal in. accuracies, such as saying “old woman" for old man," and so forth. A majority of Mrs. Piozzi's anecdotes are confirmed by Mr. Boswell's own account. -Ed.]
. The following plausible but over-prudent counsel on this subject is given by an Italian writer, quoted by “ Rhedi de generatione insectarum,” with the epithet of “ divini poeta."
* Sempre à quel ver ch'a faccia di menzogna
Dee l'uom chiudere le labbra quanto ei puote ;
On Friday, April 3, I dined with him in London, in a company' where were present several eminent men, whom I shall not name, but distinguish their parts in the conversation by different letters.
F. “I have been looking at this famous antique marble dog of Mr. Jennings, valued at a thousand guineas, said to be Alcibiades's dog.” JOHNSON. “ His tail then must be docked. That was the mark of Alcibiades's dog.” E. “A thousand guineas ! The representation of no animal whatever is worth so much.
At this rate, a dead dog would indeed be better than a living lion.” JOHNSON. “Sir, it is not the worth of the thing, but of the skill in forming it, which is so highly estimated. Every thing that enlarges the sphere of human powers, that shows man he can do what he thought he could not do, is valuable. The first man who balanced a straw upon his nose ; Johnson, who rode upon three horses at a
· [THE CLUB.—This seems to be the only instance in which Mr. Boswell has ventured to give in any detail the conversation of that society; and we see that on this occasion he has not mentioned the names, but has disguised the parties under what look like initials. All these letters, however-even with the names of the company before us _it is not easy to appropriate. It appears by the books of the Club, as Mr. Hatchett informs the editor, that the company on that evening consisted of Dr. Johnson, president, Mr. Burke, Mr. Boswell
, Dr. George Fordyce, Mr. Gibbon, Dr. Johnson (again named), Sir Joshua Reynolds, Lord Upper Ossory, and Mr. R. B. Sheridan. In Mr. Boswell's account, the initial E. no doubt stands for Edmund Burke; F., in allusion to his family name of Fitzpatrick, probably means Lord Upper Ossory ; but the appropri. ation of the other letters is very difficult. The editor suspects, from some circumstances of the conversation, and from the double entry of Johnson's name, that, although it was his night to be president, he was not actually in the chair-perhaps from having come too late. If this suspicion be correct, the initial P. would mean President; but it would be still in doubt who the president was. J. probably meant Sir Joshua Reynolds, and R. might be Richard B. Sheridan ; for though some of the observations made by R. are not very like Mr. Sheridan's style, it must be recollected that he was at this period a very young man, and not yet in parliament. The medical observations, and the allusions to Holland, made by C., suggest that Dr. Fordyce, a physician who was educated in Holland, was meant, although the editor cannot surmise why he should have been designated by the letter C. If these conjectures be just, it would follow that P., the President, was Mr. Gibbon. Why Mr. Boswell did not adopt one uniform mode of designating his interlocutors, and why he has involved a simple matter in so much mystery, is unaccountable. The editor offers his explanation of the four last names merely as a conjecture, with which he himself is not entirely satis. fied. Sir James Mackintosh and Mr. Chalmers are equally dubious. Ev.)
? [See ante, v. i. p. 408.- ED.)